Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Phoenix Preacher makes the call that Driscoll won, yet Mars Hill may still be a city without walls


The Mark Driscoll saga is over.
Bloggers will continue to blog, the reporters will continue to report, but the conclusion has been reached.

That's possible and it is possible that Mark Driscoll can proceed after a short break and it is possible the investigation that may be pending may be as foregone a conclusion as the one from 2007 seemed to be if one were to hear Mark Driscoll talk about the pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus weeks before the trials would happen ...

but Mars Hill could in some sense still be described as a city without walls.  The sheer level and nature of what material has been leaked from inside it in the last two years may itself be instructive.  It seems highly unlikely that one of the 21 leaked the charges to Warren Throckmorton since they appear to have been aiming for confidentiality.

But that doesn't rule out the possibility that someone from INSIDE Mars Hill could have leaked the content.  The history of Mars Hill leadership trying to figure out how to lock down The City as an information system, generally without a great deal of long-term success, could be a story in itself.  Some of the stuff that has been leaked in the last year or so has been material with signatures of those at the highest levels of leadership in Mars Hill.  The publicity crisis emerged because a crisis of faith within the leadership culture may have been transpiring at every level of leadership except, perhaps, the top.

This has been going on for a while.  Wenatchee The Hatchet apparently managed to scoop the resignation of Bill Clem the day it was announced, which might explain the traffic to that one post.  Quoting Mark Driscoll's rather incredible claim that Mars Hill was not a wealthy church got some views.  For a while it was arguable, for those who could see the analytics and consult the content, that the most widely read posts at Wenatchee The Hatchet appeared to be the ones that had the most conspicuously leaked content from The City.  Mars Hill leaders have known The City is not really close to being secure as an information system.  Efforts have been undertaken, so Wenatchee has been told offline, to lock down The City and figure out how all the content that has appeared on this blog may have been obtained.  That's not a particularly interesting story and it wouldn't be very interesting to share any stories about Mars Hill efforts to figure out how leaks from The City happened or how they might apply in the case of specific blogs.

But leaks may not be given for the "downfall" of a leader.  They may be done as a last ditch effort to get things into the public by those who might secretly hope for reform but are not sure they are in a position to truly voice their concerns.  While Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill may have a point in wishing that bloggers wouldn't blog about stuff they have all the more reason, in light of what has come to light, material that could only be accessible to insiders willing to leak materials, that Mars Hill has gotten to the public crisis by way of a private crisis within its own leadership culture. 

For those with an interest in the history of journalism there was this axiom that the press took down the Nixon administration.  Now we know better, the Nixon administration took down the Nixon administration.  Even if it was a disgruntled and bitter Felt it happened.  Mars Hill may wish to cast bloggers as those who could have aired concerns privately instead of going to the net.  But Wenatchee The Hatchet has made it clear for years that that was tried and that was ignored by the leaders who could have taken some concerns to heart.  And whether material is leaked to one writer or another no leak comes without someone being willing to part with information.

In other words, Mars Hill may have an opportunity to see the public crisis as a sign of inner crisis and there are at least some indications that at least some within Mars Hill are beginning to get a sense of the gravity of the situation.  If their first impulse is to quell dissent and quell a push for transparency then a complete re-run of 2007 is what they're going to get.  Those of us no longer inside Mars Hill can't be sure what the future holds, and for that matter those inside Mars Hill can't be entirely sure, either. 

But in a sense, until the leaks stop, there won't be a clear-cut "victory" for Driscoll or his advocates and perhaps there can't be.  Perhaps there shouldn't be.  One of the things people can forget when they talk about David and Bathsheba is that we're treated in that narrative to letters exchanged and private conversations between David and Joab.  David's sin was brought to light in time and through the canon itself we find that we are given access to it by, so to speak, publicly revealed "email" between a corrupt king and his underlings.  David had been a capable king up to that point but something happened before the Bathsheba affair took place that can be too easily forgotten, David delegated a military campaign to Joab that he could have done himself.  He let a lot of people do his work for him at a time when he could have done the work himself.  But more crucially, for those who have read a bit widely on this matter, he was undertaking a military campaign that ended with his placing a crown upon his head.  Joab's invitation/taunt was that if David did not take Rabah Joab would name it after himself.  In other words, David had undertaken a campaign not so much for the national interest or for secure borders but one that culminated in personal glory, in a name he was able to make for himself. 

This story may not yet be over but it may be worth pointing out that nobody hires Result Source to get a book bought on to the New York Times bestseller list who only just wants to be a simple local church pastor.  Was it Jesus' name that was broadcast more?  Indirectly, perhaps, but it was Mark and Grace Driscoll who were billed as NYT bestselling authors.  The signal crisis the Driscolls have faced is simply one of their own choosing.  It's unfortunate and one can hope that they learn to repudiate both fame and renown and books that don't even really need to be written in the long run.  If it's all about Jesus it doesn't need to be about a Real Marriage sermon series, does it?  Mark can cast off the books and go back to recommending the books of others.  Why crib from Allender if you can commend Allender? 

Perhaps just as King David brought disaster and shame upon the kingdom of Israel by undertaking a campaign for glory and renown for his name perhaps the Driscolls have an opportunity to consider at least possible parallels.  Mark Driscoll let Result Source be partnered with and "mistakes were made" with citation issues.  A few deals were made and perhaps a few shortcuts were made that have led to public shame.  If Andrew Lamb could be allowed to be said to be transformed by "gospel shame" is that something that can't be demonstrated from the top down to those who are still at Mars Hill?  Or is the transformative power of "gospel shame" only for the people in the lower tiers and not also for the founders tier?  We can't be sure yet, and if there's a pervasive concern emerging from former members and staff it's that at the uppermost levels the leaders seem to measure themselves by a different set of rules than they have for others. 

Fourteen years ago Mark Driscoll, under the pen name William Wallace II, vented that he was sick of people talking about rights and wanted to talk about responsibilities.  Driscoll has an opportunity to take full responsibility for what he allowed to be done in his name and for the sake of his name.  The question at hand is whether he will do this?  If he isn't afraid to grant that the controversies of the last years have his name on them and in one case Sutton Turner's signature on them, perhaps they can be even braver and say who that 'outside counsel' was that suggested Result Source.  After all, it wasn't technically illegal so there's no shame in simply saying whose idea it was.  It would also invite better internal and external accountability for Mars Hill and the executive elders if the whole world knows who that outside counsel was so that it may be known whether that outside counsel is still in any way associated with Mars Hill or Mark Driscoll or other executive elders.

So maybe Phoenix Preacher is right, maybe Driscoll won in some sense but who wins here/  What is there to win?  To have gotten this far is to have seen a mountain of materials leaked from inside Mars Hill.  The nature of what has been leaked invites another question for everyone to consider, if the leaks stop will that mean that real reforms have happened or that the people leaking content have either left or been caught?  No one can know for sure.  But what is hard to doubt at this point for those who have seen the full range of materials leaked, is that Mars Hill has been hemorrhaging information and documents in the last few years and this simply couldn't have happened if everyone on the inside was truly confident there was nothing to worry about.  The crisis of trust within the culture of Mars Hill may be a much bigger deal than what outsiders who have never been part of Mars Hill may decide is going on right now.


Jimmy Shnebby said...

Never truer words. Knowing someone pretty deep inside MH, there is a lot of wondering right now who the insiders are that have been leaking info. They know it's current elders, just don't know who.

Carlos Córdova said...

The solution here is simple if we are talking about winning or losing...
First of all the winner has to be the Church, and i'm not talking about Mars Hill, but the whole concept of the Church. For that to happen, it only requires one thing, that i hope has just begun. If Mark Driscoll is truly repented and if he decides to be clear and honest about his transgressions, and accepts to leave his position for an extended time and be humble enough to get help from wise people of god (as he suggested he would do in his recent speech), the whole thing about the doubt of the leaks and who did it, and "whens" and "whys" would be pointless... Because there will be nothing else to leak. That is named holiness in the scripture, and that is what i pray for in this case.
Titus 2:8, Psalms 119:31